Yes, I know. I’m posting Week 30′s Impact Effort just barely on time. But, it’s vacation time! And, I’m doing what I love: I’m traveling. This summer, I’m doing quite a bit of it and flew from Vienna, Austria to Washington, DC to Los Angeles and just this week to San Francisco. I’ve been having a grand ol’ time visiting with friends and am now with family. Nils will join next week.
But, what of all this travel? What impact am I having with all these airline flights?
According to the Carbon Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit provider of carbon offsets & climate solutions, air travel accounts for 3.5% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. According to United Airlines, air travel is responsible for 2% of emissions in the United States.
I calculated my own personal air travel carbon footprint over the past few weeks on United’s online calculator and was dismayed to discover that I’m responsible for just over 1 metric ton of CO2. Wow! My footprint was determined based on historical data for United routes, planes used, load factors and fuel usage. It doesn’t even include other factors such as additional cargo that may be carried.
How to compensate?
To help compensate for my travel carbon footprint, I’ve contributed toward a “carbon offset program” through the Carbon Fund. I simply typed in my departure and destination airports on their online flight calculator and up popped a proposal for an offset contribution amount and project. The program I chose is a forest-based carbon offset project. Examples of where my contribution will go include: the Amazon Forest Conservation Projects, the Nez Perce Reforestation Project in Idaho, and the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge Reforestation Project in Louisiana.
Calculating your travel footprint
If you’d like to join me in calculating and helping to offset your vacation carbon footprint, there are several sites you can go to. When choosing how to offset your footprint, make sure the projects are certified and verified by third-parties. Examples of standards you should look for include the U.N. Clean Development Mechanism, Chicago Climate Exchange, Environmental Resources Trust, California Climate Action Registry, Voluntary Carbon Standard, Green-e Climate and Gold Standard. The Environmental Defense and the U.S. EPA Climate Leaders program also have standards they endorse.
The Carbon Catalog is a good resource for comparing bona fide offset programs.
Some airlines provide their own carbon offset programs. Below are a few samples, check your airline’s website for more information:
- United Airlines Carbon Offset Calculator
- Continental Airlines Offset Program
- British Air Carbon Ofsetting
- Virgin Atlantic
We’ll use one of these sites again when Nils calculates his vacation footprint and again when we return to Vienna.
More about your carbon footprint
If you’d like more information about your personal carbon footprint — not just for flights, but your “life” footprint, there are a few interesting calculators to help you out:
We hope everyone’s having a fun, safe and “positively impactful” summer!